Importance of ritual

I want to break the ritual aspects from the circumcision thread and create a thread here, describing ritual, the importance of, effects, implications, and ‘power’ (must always watch out about power though…) of rituals. I also want to look at ‘ritual’ behaviour in other animals and look at how this might compare, diverge, or shed light onto the subject.

In light of it’s importance and power of bringing people together, and perhaps also causing alienation and/or exile of nonparticipating,
I bring in the concern of its ‘power’, which I am sure is known among the rulers of the ‘world’, and used I would think, as well.

I’ll start with what conversation in the previous thread

I think Judaism's got a lot going for it with how much wild, tribal custom they've preserved. They're going to have a head start over most of us when it gets down to it, I think.

While when I think of Jewish customs, I usually think of it as I said as ‘orthodox dogmaticism’ but hell what does that mean anyhow?

But to me it's this orthodox dogmaticism I am looking to get away from. I don't want to be bent over by enumerous rules [and the subject of power struggles] imposed by men/civilization/culture/[religions], for daily living. But as I said before I can see and understand the power of a group ritual, and how it can bring people together, in that I see nothing wrong.
Tribal peoples describe their societies as, first and foremost, "traditional." They're pretty keen on the dogmatism. The real difference is, are these traditions that work for people, or not?
I think that is quite a valid question.

Toward your first post on Jewish customs…
I don’t want to let stereotypes, misconceptions or anything else scourge my view. So perhaps you could explain further, I feel you made some bold statement in there.

[quote=“Fenriswolfr, post:1, topic:385”]While when I think of Jewish customs, I usually think of it as I said as ‘orthodox dogmaticism’ but hell what does that mean anyhow?

. . .But as I said before I can see and understand the power of a group ritual, and how it can bring people together, in that I see nothing wrong.[/quote]

Hey Fenris, have you ever experienced a Jewish wedding? These folks know how to celebrate in a noisy, violently joyous way–even as an “outsider to the tribe” I felt caught up in the tide of fun craziness. I want my tribe to have that much fun.

no I haven’t firsthand, but I have heard of them, and thanks for pointing it out, hadn’t quite thought about it.

Jews have a very strong, tightly-knit community, and a strong tribal identity. Things like kosher laws and circumcision help maintain a strong Jewish identity, even after millennia of exile. Even after all that’s happened to them, Jewish culture has retained a distinctively tribal nature; it’s really more of a tribe living in civilization, than a civilization with remnants of tribalism. For that reason alone, I expect Jewish survival to be heavily disproportionate.

While when I think of Jewish customs, I usually think of it as I said as 'orthodox dogmaticism' but hell what does that mean anyhow?

I don’t know. Jewish traditions really reflect the attitude any functioning tribe will need to develop: we do this because that’s the way it’s always been done, it’s the way Real People do it. You goyim have your quaint little quirks, but we don’t really care, because this is the way Real People do it. That’s the attitude that works.

I don't want to let stereotypes, misconceptions or anything else scourge my view. So perhaps you could explain further, I feel you made some bold statement in there.

Really? In what way? In what ways aren’t Jews tribal?

Really? In what way? In what ways aren't Jews tribal?
I never said they weren't, I was referring to the 'wild customs and how they will be a step ahead of us' but in the way you put it I can defiantly see how they would be. My house mate here is Jewish and while he doesn't really practice the religion he does keep a strong connection with a Jewish community, so I know what you're talking about. Actually I guess I don't know how I didn't see it at first.. Basically these seems to hold to me for any religion/people. Some may have more or different customs but they all come together into a strong community (maybe some stronger than others -shrugs-).

Oh I should note upon reading over what I said, I think when I said you made bold statements, I meant it, but I think it could be seen the wrong way, I’d like to change bold to strong. I wasn’t questioning what you said, just wanting you to expand on it.

Rituals, both individual and collective, are extremely useful. The human brain is literally wired for ritual. You do it every day: get out of bed, stretch a certain way, brush your teeth the same way, put the same leg in your pants first, and eat from a selection of foods that you enjoy.

Collective ritual has many purposes and results. It bonds a group. It teaches a group similar or identical things. It tells stories (most of which teach, but some of which are entertaining; better yet, they are all both teaching and entertaining). It helps people see other options. It allows interaction with currents other than “the mundane”.

Rituals for the individual integrate the individual (body, spirit, mind, soul, Divine, whatever). Rituals for the group integrate the group (men, women, children, families, elders, visitors, hunters, gatherers, shamans, whatever).

The human brain is literally wired for ritual.

You can really see the wiring in kids. They pick up on patterns really quickly – even ones you don’t intend (which also probably points to our wiring as well.)

With intentional rituals, I have always felt like they focus my attention as well as my intention.

I think all the collective ritual now in civilization, revolves around shopping day sales… well maybe just me being biased after working in retail …

not at all, you can find a number of collective rituals around holidays.

granted not all families/communities have the same rituals, but …

I just read this in Joseph Campbell’s Flight of the Wild Gander, follows a telling of a dream of Black Elk.

When he was seventeen years old, Black Elk translated a portion of this dream into a rite, a ceremonial for his people that was actually enacted. "A man who has a vision," he explained, "is not able to use the power of it until after he has performed the vision on earth for the people to see." Thus do mythologies and their rites arise. A ritual is the form through which one participates in a myth, partakes of it, gives oneself to it: and the myth is a group dream projected from the personal-collective vision of a seer: a gifted individual.

While jews may show aspects of trabalism, i think that can be said of virtually any “minority”. I see rituals and tribal bonds that are more alive in black communities, gay communities, native communities, sikh communities. But if the tribes culture has died, and is frozen, it is just as likely to stop ones survival with its rigid dogma as it is to bring about ones survival with strengthened social bonds. Restrictions about what one eats, how one dresses, who is welcome into ones community, these are likely to backfire when a culture has been taken out of context and frozen.

This is an old discussion and I’m not so much directly responding to any one post as I am just writing what came to mind for me reading it.

Context is very important to ritual or ceremony. A familiarity and understanding of the culture is required to understand a ceremony.
A culture is a way of life. The only way to understand a culture is to live it. This is one of my beefs with anthropology. Studying a culture does not provide what is needed for an understanding with any depth.

I have participated in ceremonies with the Native people of the Plateau region for over 20 years. I’m still learning about the ceremonies and what they do for the people. I’m still learning about all the little variations from one home to another. They have deeper meaning and more profound effect on me each time I particiate. New things come up for me. Even the leaders will tell you the same thing. They still have to go to their elders.

These ceremonies are not superficial feel good sessions. I was raised a Roman Catholic. As a teenager I totally rejected that. About ten years ago when my mother was nearing the end of her life here I went back to the church to honor her. For a couple of years I fully participated in the Catholic faith and observed all of the holy days and protocols and guidelines of a devout Catholic. From my experiences with Native American ceremony I had a whole new perspective on what the ritual observances of the Catholic church were about. I realized that at the core there is a depth that a devout person like my mother and Catholics with a more mystical form of devotion are tapping into. I think this is why many tribal people are easily converted. They are already on that wavelength and can go right to the deeper mystical aspect of the faith.
The politics of the Catholic church still make it impossible for me to embrace it, and I left it behind again after a couple of years, but I am glad I gave it that time.

Ritual is not something to dabble with. It will all seem superficial. Which is why there is so much symbolism and metaphor read into rituals by those who study them. They haven’t gone deep enough to experience what the ceremony is really about.
I think this is also why many neo-animists are so enthusiastic about the “ritual” use of hallucinogens. It requires very little commitment and effort to have a mystical experience.
Again this is another example of dabbling though. Experiences gotten that way are really not the goal, they are only the place where the work begins.

I guess what I am saying is that there are a lot of levels on which ritual affects us and works for us. We can go as deep as we want, or are ready to deal with.

I actually very much agree with that, including a distaste for superficial dabbling. That said, I still value anthropology, because a superficial understanding still gives you more than no understanding at all. The peril lies in mistaking your superficial understanding for full understanding. So long as you remember how little you really understand, it can help you a great deal.

And then we have the problem of how we can discover the rituals of the land we live in. Ingold’s book helped me understand how rituals don’t come from inside the human brain; they exist in the land, waiting for us to discover them and enact them. Discovering those rituals constitutes a major part of reinhabiting, as bioregionalists call it. Something like Catholic ritual can really help in this regard, since it gives us a stump to grow up from. Roleplaying games can help in this regard, since they already have so much of the superficial in place, so now you just need to cultivate them and give them the years they need to develop more depth. I read an essay that talked about America’s old growth cultures. I very much appreciate that perspective. Basically, that makes us new growth cultures, just getting our feet as much as the new growth forests so many of us dwell with, and it puts our challenges in the right perspective, I think. Sure, compared to the ritual life of some surviving cultures, they can seem shallow, just like a new growth forest seems shallow next to an old growth. We just need to give it time to grow.

I really like the idea of new growth. We are something different, we are like what came before, but we are not what came before. We have our own influences to bring with us and add to a new wild mix, things that will make us different than the old growth. We can bring, like you mentioned, Christian or Judaic ideas and basises. We could also bring elements that are Druidaic or Greek-Olympian or Buddhist or Egyptian or Mesopotamian or Wiccan or Confucian or Shinto or Hindu or… the list goes on and on. There are so many traditions out there that we can look at for inspiration and basises for rituals, to give structure to the ideas that come from the land around us.

I think Billy makes an excellent point, easy to miss.

Joseph Campbell himself (‘Hero with a Thousand Faces’, ‘Power of Myth’, etc.) said that he, ultimately, lost out, and would never have as rich an experience as a dedicated member of any one of the many, many mythological worlds that he had studied.

He said that the power comes when you follow one path (however chosen) to its end point (if such a thing exists), rather than dabbling in many paths. He learned a lot, definitely, but only things broad and big picture, not the deep, deep things that come after decades on a path.

I too feel disappointed by the apologists for acultural (i.e., not used in its place, according to its tradition) hallucinogens, aka “entheogens”. I understand some folks swear by them, but it seems so easy to just have the land speak to me. The drug intermediary just seems like extra entertainment to make the same points. Like fireworks at a wedding. Why?

I’d like to add, I become less and less interested reading about “animism” and the broad scope of rituals and ceremonies, world religions, shamanism, etc., and more and more satisfied with discovering my relationship with this place of family, here and now.